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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 13,704,221  

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Question of the Week: 31 - 3/5/2001

Whassa Matter With Kids Today?

Maybe nothing, but you couldn't tell that from the main media news stories or from the often disparaging remarks overheard (overread?) about today's youth in the Pagan newsgroups, message boards and chat rooms. Are the Pagan youth of today nothing but shallow thrill seekers intent on finding some easy spoon-fed answers? Do they come off as spell hungry monsters looking for a quick fix? Are they really unable to delve into the deeper mysteries simply because they are young? "Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?" Pagan Adults: What trends and tendencies do you see manifesting in the Pagan youth of today? What would you LIKE to see? Pagan Youth: What about the treatment often received by young seekers bugs you the most? Is it justified? Do you feel 'stereotyped' as a young person? Adults AND Youth: What are the benefits and drawbacks of inter-generation communication?

 Reponses:   There are 71 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I May As Well Start Off At The Point: Pagan Youth Are... Mar 11th. at 1:06:40 pm EST

Ashley Martin (Peterborough, Ontario CA) Age: 19 - Email

I may as well start off at the point: pagan youth are NOT looking for "quick fix" solutions, plain and simple. And, now that I've made such a bold statement, I supposed I should at leasty try to justify it.

It seems that this concern that young people are being attracted to pagansim in general, and Wicca and withcraft in particular, has been growing for some time. The introduction of commercial "witch kits" fairly recently has only added to the distaste many older pagans feel for today's pagan youth. There are several things I would like to say about these witch kits, but I'll try to keep this at a reasonable length. I'll content myself with making the following points:
-Youth did not demand these things. I imagine that they, instead, were the product of well-intentioned authors, and marketers. (At least, at no point do I recall sighing "Oh, how I wish I had a witch kit!")
-One thing that most youth are lacking is money, especially those who are vey young and have not had the opportunity to make any substantial earnings of their own. These kits provided a more affordable way to access several basic (and some perhaps silly) materials than many more "old-fashioned" pagans or teachers would call necessary. Apparently, to be a Witch is expensive. (Though I personally disagree with this statement, as do many others, there are still people who wonder why I, a well-read, practicing witch of over seven years do not yet own a commercially produced athame, wand, or pentacle.)
-These are a symptom of a cause. A *good* cause, let's not forget. More and more people, primarily youth, are becoming interested in Wicca and the rest of paganism. In doing so, they are making the world as we know a safer, more accepting place for all pagans. The mainstream isn't the worst thing that could happen to us, especially when looked at alongside ostracism, rejection, hatred, threats, and disrespect. True, this would be a bit of a problem if all pagan youth were interested in was self-serving spellcraft, but I have to reiterate that we aren't, at least not according to my observations.

One of the many things I do which some would frown upon is teach a class on Wicca at a local communitiy education centre. I am always afraid of being called on this by someone who is a third-degree-belted Alexandrian, for instance, but I persist in doing so to offer people in general, and young people in particular a chance to learn about modern Witchcraft in a safe, all-questions-permitted setting. I have co-taught this class about Wicca for three terms now, and have yet to be faced with someone interested particularly in making spells, or developing supernatural powers. I have met young people who are interested in the Wheel of the Year; the relationship between the God and Goddess; linking their spirituality to saving the Earth; making contacts withing the community; and so on. While magical "correspondences" and spellcraft usually come up, in this student-directed class, they have yet to be a focus of the teaching. (Which, all things considered, is fortunate, because I'd hate to have to give a flat-out "no" to my students.) From anecdotes I have been told by others, and by my own experiences, the majority of people looking for stop-gap magickal solutions are not people who would call themselves pagan at all. I spent a lot of high school explaining to self-proclaimed "atheists" that I would not, could not, shoud not "do a spell" for them to win the affections of their crush, etc. Not once has someone approached me, a completely "out" Witch, with the statement "I'm Pagan, and I really want this boy/girl to like me. Will you teach me a spell to do?"

I have the wonderful, rare experience of being pagan youth and working with pagan youth. Those who become attracted to the glamour seem to mostly become attracted to the faith. Either this, or they discard of any witchy pretensions quickly, and return to their secular existence.

There is no reason to fear us. That is, unless one fears being brought more and more into this world, and building a bigger and bigger bridge between pagan sub-culture and the rest of society. I realise that this *is* scary, to some people, but it is my belief that maintaining an aura of remote secrecy--and encouraging young people to do so--is not conducive to breaking down barriers created by ignorance.

Young people, in this new millenium, are reshaping paganism, just as it was reshaped in the 1980s, and the 1950s, and countless times before the past century. I am convinced that this will be a positive shift, characterized by imagination, creativity, openess, and an ever-increasing willingness to learn the Old Ways and reconcile them with the New.

Just A Thought As A Father Of A 15 Year Old "young... Mar 11th. at 2:40:01 am EST

Eder Shadowalk (Jonesboro, Arkansas US) Age: 35 - Email

Just a Thought

As a father of a 15 year old "young Adult" (he doesnt like the words Kid, Child, or Teenager)I feel that we as the parents need to pay more attention to our children. Not just in what they are saying, but how they say it, how they talk to friends on the phone, what showes they like to watch, etc... We need to tune into them. Only by knowing our children, can we give them the guidance they need and ask for. It's the teen who is searching for his path and not knowing where to look that gets into trouble. Just like driving in any large city for the first time. How easy is it to wind up in the worst of neighborhoods if you don't have a map? quite easy! (Thank you Rand McNally!)

When my son decided to become a wicca like his mother and I, we sat down together and held a family round table discussion. We talked about many aspects of religion, his friends, his future plans, and so on. Now he wants us to have this types of discussion once a week. I think he really enjoyed knowing that we were "about" him. We didn't find his path that night, but atleast he knows he has a map in his back pocket.

Pagan Youth Are There Just For The Thrill Of It? Oh Come... Mar 10th. at 11:39:58 pm EST

Tiara, craft name Zephyrina Nystrom Hayes (Ulu Tiram, Johor, Malaysia) Age: 15 - Email

Pagan Youth are there just for the thrill of it? Oh come on. That's over-generalization. Just wanna be Pagan because it's cool? Well, if it wasn't cool we porbabaly won't bat an eye BUT we're NOT in it JUST BECAUSE IT'S COOL. We're in it because we (or at least I) have felt the urge to experience more. Age does not reflect maturity. We ARE willing to learn. We ARE willing to endure. But do you know how HARD it is to find a guide? We're at the time where society pushes things on us and we have to make up our minds quickly...but please, give us space. Teach us. Trust us, we're loyal listeners. Don't assume that we are here just for some quick spell to got 120% in our exams. Show us the wisdom of the world. Tell us what our Earth has to offer. Open our sight, mind and heart. We are still growing...and we do need guidance.

Well, I Am An Eclectic Pagan And I Face Adolescents Daily. One... Mar 10th. at 7:51:19 pm EST

Mother Superior (Chicago, Illinois US) Age: 15 - Email

Well, I am an eclectic pagan and I face adolescents daily. One day, recently, we were all herded into a gymnasium for the "ash Wednesday mass" and I was one of many who did not receive ashes nor communion. A young woman, a freshman, asked me, "Are you not Catholic?" I shook my head. She gave me an apologetic look and went back to gossiping. Later in the day, at a Debate Club meet, a young man, another freshman, asked me if I was not Catholic. I shook my head no and told him I am pagan. He said, "I thought so." I was in complete shock, for he took no heed of my pentangle. When I asked him how he could have conceived it, he said my attitude led him to believe so.

That same week was a Fringe Film Club meet at the same high school and I went. I brought last year's Magickal Almanac, a wonderful resource for crafts and the "contemporary pagan." The club is made us, mostly, of senior men. When I started reading with the book up to my face so I could not see the snickering students when they told dirty jokes. Two of the male seniors came over and asked me questions. I told them I am eclectic and it would be better if they had books or went to a pagan chatroom. I handed them the book and answered what stale questions they had. Though the school is Jesuit and 80% of the student body is Christian, I often feel alone. They told me there are about three Wiccans and one of them club members practiced/practices the tarot.

Altogether, I think the main reason why most young persons look to paganism and its denominations is to cast "love spells" and "curses", as I am asked to give them some to "cast" on others. I have a close friend who is a freshman in a Christian school who thinks Wicca is all that is shown on the show Charmed. She actually thought she could develop powers like the characters. I was not brought to paganism by this at all. Believe it or not, I started practicing my path three years ago, at twelve. I am now fifteen and happy in my peace.

I Feel Strongly That One Is Drawn To This Path. Young People... Mar 10th. at 2:07:15 pm EST

Willowrose7 (Colville , Washington US) Age: 42 - Email

I feel strongly that one is drawn to this path. Young people are by nature hungry for fast answers. They (alot of the time) drive cars fast, dance hard, play hard, can stay up for lots of hours and absorb knowledge like new sponges. So if you truly are a teacher you must accept and honor the audience to which you desire to impart knowledge to. When working with young demand that they accomplish real work in trhe craft before they can progress. I am of the opinion that many adult witches do not work consistently or hard enough to realize their full potential. So- Yes some young folks are just thrill seekers, some are true seekers who need real teachers, not self important stiff full of themselves, psuedo "teachers". To be a witch is to bend, and to be a teacher is to guide, understand, and share knowledge in understandable, interesting, and in a guided manner that sets high expectations and in doing so also offers the support that is vital for success, This seperates the thrill seekers from the true seekers. Thanks for listening-Willowrose7

Were We Perfect In Everyway? No, We Were Not. So Why Would... Mar 10th. at 11:00:45 am EST

Garnet Redstone, HPs (Charlotte, North Carolina US) Age: 44 - Email

Were we perfect in everyway? No, we were not. So why would we expect today's youth to be any different? It is true that many pagan youths are looking for the quick fix to things that are wrong. Many (adults as well) would like to have a spell to "fix" things they do not like. But there are many who are serious in their desire to learn the old ways....not just magick, but the spirituality as well.
I am very proud to say that the youth members of our coven (the Sacred Oak Grove Coven in Charlotte, NC, ) are serious, devoted students of the Craft. They are so eager to learn and at the same time, so careful to keep the Rede.
We, as parents and mentors, must remember that young people learn by example as well. Make sure your youth know what is acceptable and what is not....not only through your words, but through your actions.
The enthusiam of our youth keeps us young and alive! Without them to teach, as with any religion, our religion will die. Let us celebrate our youth, teach them to be the wise ones....the mentors of tomorrow!

The Young And The Old, Simply Two Sides Of The Same Coin... Mar 10th. at 4:54:06 am EST

Green Leaves (Riverside, California US) Age: 17 - Email

The young and the old, simply two sides of the same coin
Some people find that paganism is the path for them and choose to follow it. Others find that it suites them not and don't. This is the natural way of things. It cannot be avoided nor should it. But it means so long as someone is traveling the path of magick, no matter how brief, they should be taken seriously. Everyone started at the beginning. For whatever reason many people, young and old, have come to paganism or Wicca or whatever variation or tradition you call it. The fact that more people are traveling this path means you simply get more of every kind of seeker, dabblers and meaningful students alike.

The problem is that there are in truth very few teachers, for so many new comers. Not only this but the act of teaching itself has become a very risky propsition, what with law suites, the rights of the parents, and the desires of the young. All aside from the cost of teaching, in terms of the time and energy and effort that must be put forth. It is really no wonderthat it has become so difficult to find a teacher, a good teacher. They are out there but there are not enough of them. This is sort of off topic but this all sort of does relate, or at least it did when I started.

Next comes age Vs quality. I personally could not teach; I don't have the perspective or experience. I don't have the good old method of trial and error worked out to its full extent; I haven't had the time. Or more accurately I have not made the time. But all work and no play, is no fun at all.

There are regardless of age, people who will come to the craft and leave it quickly, sometimes doing some serious damage along the way. I must stress, both young and old are quilty of this. But along with those who seek power and control are those, again both young and old, who seek to find the truth. To lose even one who seeks the truth is wroth disillusioning any number of those who don't.

If you are young, be polite and realistic, one teacher can only teach so many, perhaps you could work on your own. If you are not young, remember what it was like to unsure and alone. If you don't wish to teach, then don't. But if you don't teach don't go around name-calling. In fact even if you do teach don't go around name-calling. If you find someone who asks you to teach them and you don't have the will or desire or just flat out don't feel capable of it; tell them so. Don't invent reasons why you can't teach them. Tell the truth, if they don't understand oh well, you have done what you are willing to do and that's enough.

Above all else, if you are young or old, have respect toward everyone you meet old or young, foolish or brilliant. And we will all get through this funny thing called life just fine.

I Will Agree That Todays Media And Message Boards Leave Little To... Mar 9th. at 7:36:04 pm EST

Angelo (Wilbraham, Massachusetts US) Age: 17 - Email

I will agree that todays media and message boards leave little to be appriciated about todays Teen image. Though, we do have to remember that the image presented DOESNT represent all of us. But I can understand where and why it would, but we have to understand that those teens who are the "hungry-little-spell-beggers-looking-for-a-quick-fix" are just looking for answeres to the pressing problems presented in their lives. Speaking from personal experience, I have often times been told by parents, teachers and boss' that my problems are insignificant to the problems that really matter. So its only natural that we would go and look for some type of alleviation to these problems. Granted that by begging for spells is wrong, what else are we to do? I was in that same position before I began to study Paganism/Wicca. I wanted an easy way out to my problems. Little did I know that this only made matters worse and it was only a matter of time until I learned to face my problems head on before I went looking for a solution whether it was magickal or not. The Adults have to agree with me there that at some point in their lives they went looking for some type of "quick fix" to their problems.

As far as us being too young to be able to delve into the deeper mysteries because of our age, I find that to be absoltuely ludacris. After all, age is only a number right? I have had many people tell me, including friends, teachers and even my own parents that I am wise beyond my years, and I too would like to think the same. I have also chosen to take on the resposibilities that come along with learning and living this path. And I am not the only one. I know many teens, some older and some younger, who have whole-heartedly taken on the responsibilities. Just because we arent as "wise" or as old, doesnt mean that we are unable to do what the adults do. And whats this buisness about us not being "as perfect as they were"? That in itself is funny. The adults out there no as well as I do that they were, just as we are, no where near perfect. We all had our own little tinks and twerks to work out in our teen years. Some of us may have done and are doing it different, but its still the same.

The treatment recieved is in no way justified. At one point in my journy, I found myself branded the "Clique Wiccan" and "Playgan" just because of my age. I can understand why it was done. Adults want to protect the religion and their beliefs, but branding someone based on a number is in no way fair. How do they know our level of maturity? They dont, and therefore have no grounds to accuse us. I myself feel stereotyped, but like I said, adults are only out to protect what they hold sacred.

One benefit from inter-generation conversation is that we both have something to offer each other. We both can learn from one another. And down side is that some where, were going to find those who are only in it for the thrills, which is only going to make the situation harder, and out battel even longer. sorry for being so long!!

Hi, Well, Its Totally Obvious That Wicca/witchcraft Is Becoming Totally Comercialized... Mar 9th. at 6:07:16 pm EST

zaeryn auriez (bournemouth, England UK) Age: 16 - Email

hi, well, its totally obvious that wicca/witchcraft is becoming totally comercialized. with teenage witch programmes n crap like that, no wonder its becoming popular with the kids. we're young, we want to explore, mess around a bit. we do a bit of drugs, a bit of this n that, n a bit of witchcraft. then there's the missunderstood kids who fall under stereotypes like this, when really they're thinking deep n meaningful thoughts, n r serious about their beliefs. i'm one of the kids who groes up in this world, seeking self discovery, finding 'the craft' and truly understanding (though i have a lot to learn, as all witches do despite age). i'm still in school (leaving for college very soon) and there are so many dabblers, its amazing. see, its a girls school, n some of us freaks like this new agey crap thats becoming fashionable. what really annoys me is that the old ways are getting tacky and commercialized. what really really annoys me is ignorance. stereotypes. my friends getting interested in witchcraft, she goes on about all the stuff in her cool little book, but doesn't seem to understand the morrals and beliefs behind the practice. i don't like dabblers who mess around with shit and do really bad karma. i was always careful when starting out, n made sure i had several years research n study n thought about what i believe. now i'm a first degree solo eclectic witch. it bothers me when people go on about ritual and doing things by the book cos they don't understand it. i guess they just need time to learn. learn how to improvise, how to become more aware, how to become wiser. knowledge and wisdom r 2 very different things.
so, age don't matter really, what matters is how u'v used ur time. the young learn from their mistakes and their elders teachings. bless them for trying to understand. tolerate them for messing about. educate them. help them. be your own person but listen to others. ignore the shit that people say n live ur life, espiring towards enlightenment for all.

As A Teen, I've Been Sterotyped By Both My Peers For My... Mar 9th. at 6:00:27 pm EST

Silver Butterfly (Edmonton) Age: 17

As a teen, I've been sterotyped by both my peers for my beliefs as well as among adults for just being a teenager. I think that the best thing that we all can do whether we are young or old, pagan or not, we can try to look behind the images that are presented about a group in general by the media and the rest of society. I agree that there are those who want to gain attention and do this by calling themselves pagan simply for the reaction that it gains. These people run around claiming to hex and curse everyone who looks at them wrong. in cases like that, I have found that I feel more pity than anything for these people because obviously they are lonely and have a great need for love and compassion. As for myself and others like myself, who are serious about their fath...well we don't run around cursing everyone that looks at as funny. A lot of us blend nicely into a crowd, volunteer and don't believe that we can enter a mirror with a chant or shatter all the windows in our houses by liting a candle (as movies would portray all witches of being able to do).

I think that there are times when teen pagans have recieved a few negative comments from adult pagans and then assume every adult is like those few that they have not had pleasant experiences from. The sterotyping of both the older and younger generations in reaction to the other group is a problem that we all have to work on alleviating in the community. None of us are perfect and all of us are continually learning more and more about ourselves and our faith throught the rest of our lives. I can understand the reservations from the older generations as well as the difficulties my generation is having but I think that a little open mindedness would go a long way in helping us all learn from each other. Everyone has something useful to share with others and can learn something useful from those around them.

Taunted About Interest In Wicca, Goth Clothing 12 Year-old Ends Her Life... Mar 9th. at 4:19:31 pm EST

Wren Walker (Clearwater, Florida US) Age: 50 - Email

Taunted About Interest In Wicca, Goth Clothing 12 Year-Old Ends Her Life

Since this is relevant to the topic, I thought we might want to include this tragic incident as part of the on-going discussion. Even if you have already posted on the subject previously, feel free to post again. The subject is a serious one.

See Wren's Nest:

Author: John T. Greilick
Source: The Detroit News (
Article# 2815

Twelve-year-old Tempest Smith sat alone in her bedroom one chilly morning late last month and gazed into the mirror. Shortly before her classes were to start at Lincoln Park Middle School, she kissed her reflection goodbye.

The lipstick smudges still adorn Tempest's mirror, sad reminders of the day the tall, troubled girl slipped a leopard-print scarf around her neck and hanged herself from her bunk bed.

Tempest's journal, discovered under her bed after her Feb. 20 suicide, offers a glimpse into a problem family and friends didn't fully understand: the incessant teasing she faced every day about her shy demeanor, choice of clothing and religious beliefs that made each day of school -- then eventually life itself -- unbearable.

Many of her classmates had teased her constantly since elementary school. They teased her because she wore dark "Gothic" clothing to school. They teased her because she read books about Wicca, a pagan religion often associated with witchcraft. Her classmates often taunted her with Christian hymns.

Now people aren't chanting Jesus luvs u. They're singing it.

This Is Probably Going To Be A Long One, But Before I... Mar 9th. at 4:13:52 pm EST

Vivhianna (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario CA) Age: 18 - Email

This is probably going to be a long one, but before I begin my rant, I'd like to say that it's long been my opinion that every generation treats the one that follows it as if there is something inherently wrong in being younger. This isn't meant to be an insult. Far from it, in fact. I have nothing but respect for those who have walked this planet for a longer time than I have, especially those who've learned a few things along the way. But in my reading, and in my personal experience, I've seen that youth is often portrayed as shallow, lazy, dishonest and stupid. Perhaps we are--or perhaps this view is one that's been passed down through many generations like a favourite story or Great-Great-Great-Grandmother's recipe for bread. The details may change but the result is the same. Youth is generally seen in a very unflattering light indeed.
I'm not denying that there are some people of my age and younger that deserve that unflattering reputation. I seem to recall an incident not five days ago when a 16-year-old kid threw a tomato at a school bus. But then, there are several people who I know who are at least thirty years older than I am and who still act as if they were six or seven. Immaturity is not restricted to those below whatever "magic age" is supposed to bring maturity, wisdom, and adulthood. Neither is maturity restricted to that same "magic age"; I have met, and I am friends with, several people of my own age who know how to have fun without causing damage, and who take responsibility for their own actions. Hopefully, I am someone like this, or will eventually be a person of this sort.
I am a "young seeker". My lack of years admits it. I was younger still, when I first began reading about Witches and Pagans at 12 years of age, and I was 14 when I realized that I was beginning to adopt Pagan beliefs as my own. I was 16 (give or take a year or two) when I decided that I would learn more about Pagans in general and Wiccans in particular. I'm 18 now and still very happy with the choice that I have made regarding my religion. In my eyes, my youth does not prevent me from being a valid seeker. If anything, I see it as an advantage of sorts--I've found a path that I intend to stick with for the rest of my life and I didn't have much more than 14 years of prior religious "programming" to adapt or (in the case of some minute details) reject.
I have one question, which may be the point of my entire post here--if there's so much wrong with kids these days, why doesn't someone start doing something about it rather than just sitting around and complaining that we haven't learned how to be responsible? Why doesn't someone try to guide us instead of grumbling that we're hopelessly lost? Why doesn't someone try to teach us how to live our lives right instead of sitting around and moaning that the world is lost because kids these days are "nothing but shallow thrill seekers intent on finding some easy spoon-fed answers"? I've always been told that to change something, you have to actually do something about it rather than just grumble about it to other people. Nobody ever got anywhere just sitting around. Nobody ever learned anything without being taught, either by experience or by another person. I guess that what I'm trying to say here is that if you see that there's a problem with young people today, then perhaps you should try to do something about it. Most kids I know are actually decent human beings (Gasp! What a thought!) and are quite willing to learn--if there were someone who would be willing and patient enough to put up with their inexperience and their sometimes stupid-sounding questions.
We're people, just like you. Dismiss us, and everybody loses. But try to understand us, try to remember what it was like to be young and uncertain of yourself and your place in the world, and hopefully your attitude towards us will be more forgiving. You made many of the same mistakes as we are making now, and you learned many of the same lessons as we are learning now. The world is not a battle between adults and kids, though I'm not denying it seems that way sometimes. But we're not all bad. In most cases we're just trying to figure out where we fit..

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